The new administration is extremely busy at this time trying to ‘right the wrong’ of the past years. It is now focusing on investigating frauds and other manifestations of dishonesty in government ministries, corporations and other agencies. It is also trying to plug the loopholes, while the Prime Minister who is also Minister of Information has announced that he will revise the functions of Gina and the state media.
It is anticipated that very soon there will be a large number of prosecutions against alleged wrongdoers, and therefore it is extremely important that the coalition look into the method of investigations and prosecutions. There is need to have better trained detectives and more importantly to have trained lawyers as prosecutors in the magistrates’ courts. Most of the criminal cases (maybe more than 75%) are dealt with summarily and it is not a secret that some of the police prosecutors are mediocre against some defence attorneys. How can you ask a corporal, a sergeant or even an inspector to do battle against sharp lawyers? Some of them were not even trained to present cases. This no doubt is responsible for the poor conviction rate.
It is understood that many of the prosecutors are taxed with other duties in the prosecution department of the Police Force such as revising statements, briefing witnesses, etc. Moreover because of lack of experience key ingredients in the prosecution case are omitted and experienced lawyers take advantage of this.
There are scores of lawyers in Guyana and it is my view that the Director of Public Prosecutions should be given a substantial vote to have a full complement of lawyers to be trained as prosecutors for both the magistrates and high courts. The prosecutors can be classified with the juniors working in the lower courts. Police officers should sit with them to follow the cases and ensure the witnesses are available in court. This was how I prosecuted when I was acting DPP in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Far too many cases fell through the cracks because of the unavailability of witnesses at the trial.
It was drawn to my attention by a former army officer that there are a large number of retired senior GDF officers who have their masters degrees and are very articulate. They can be tapped since they were prosecutors in the army.
The government should ensure that funds are available for police prosecution. The British Virgin Islands is still a territory under the UK government, but its legal system is the best in the Caribbean. Lawyers from the DPP’s office prosecute all magistrates court cases and the court reporting system is par excellence.